Crystal Mountain Skier Dies After Falling in Tree Well

Image: Crystal Mountain Skier Dies After Falling in Tree Well Arial view of Crystal Mountain.

Friday, 21 Feb 2014 07:32 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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A ski patrol in Washington state could not revive a 35-year-old skier on Wednesday afternoon after digging the man out of a depression called a tree well on Crystal Mountain.

The skier, who was not immediately identified in media reports, was last seen about 1 p.m. in an area of Crystal Mountain called Dick's Face and reported missing about 2:25 p.m., the Seattle Times reported.

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The resort's ski patrol found the man unresponsive shortly afterward, dug him out and proceeded to administer CPR. Officials said it appears the man died from snow-immersion suffocation.

Crystal Mountain is an alpine ski area located in the Cascade Range in Washington state, southeast of Seattle.

A tree well is a void or depression that forms around the base of a tree, which can contain a mixture of low hanging branches, loose snow and air. The low branches can hide these voids, making them difficult for skiers to see them.

A skier or snowboarder who falls into a deep tree well could easily become immobilized, especially if they fall headfirst.

"This serves as an unfortunate and sad reminder of how important it is to ski and ride with a partner, and keep them in sight, especially where there’s a lot of new and unsettled snow," Ski Patrol director Paul Baugher said in a statement, according to the Seattle Times.

Nearly 20 inches of snow fell on the Crystal Mountain Resort Wednesday and 94 inches of snow fell on the resort in the past nine days, according to KOMO-TV. 

Crystal Mountain posted a snow warning on its website Friday. 

"It's coming in fast and steady, and according to the forecast it looks like we'll have snow through the weekend. Please ski/ride with a partner and stay away from tree wells," the statement said.

In a separate incident Monday, a man died after apparently hitting some rocks while skiing at Stevens Pass, also in the Cascade Range near the King County border, according to the Seattle Times. Officials said that that they did not know if the skier, believed to be in his 30s, was doing jumps or just skiing when he hit the rocks. 

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